When Adam Boulter sent me this haunting sketch of two figures looking down at Petra ‘from the high place of sacrifice’ (as he added in a marginal note) I realised that, with some small changes, it answered to my sonnet on the third temptation of Christ in the Wilderness. The whole sequence of seven ‘Wilderness’ moments hinges on the two glimpses of Christ in the Wilderness: the first, forced there as an innocent child refugee, sharing the trauma of all the coerced victims of conflict, and this second as a mature man choosing to face and feel, to suffer for us, and to overcome our temptations, and in this case, the most insidious of all temptations, and the root of the most destructive and ghastly of all our conflicts, the temptation to religious pride.
As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the play button and you can visit the exhibition with the finished paintings and poems at St. Margaret’s Westminster throughout Lent
Temptation in the wilderness
‘A sacred place is good for looking down from;
You stand above the world on holy heights,
Here on the pinnacle, above the maelstrom,
Among the few, the true, unearthly lights.
Here you can breathe the thin air of perfection
And feel your kinship with the lonely star,
Above the shadow and the pale reflection,
Here you can know for certain who you are.
The world is stalled below, but you could move it
If they could know you as you are up here,
Of course they’ll doubt, but here’s your chance to prove it
Angels will bear you up, so have no fear….’
‘I was not sent to look down from above
It’s fear that sets these tests and proofs, not Love.’
4 responses to “In the Wilderness 4: Temptation”
This reminds me somehow of that marvelous Father Brown story by GK Chesterton where the self righteous vicar drops a hammer on his unrighteous brother’s head from his church tower and kills him. Of course, Father Brown solves the crime by way of coming to understand the vicar’s spiritual pride, his habit of looking down upon the world and those who live in it from his lofty vantage point. The frequenting of high places from which we can “look down” on others is a dangerous thing to do.
Indeed. I was drawing on that very story!
I would LOVE to see these sketches, marginalia included, together with your sonnets in a very simple “coffee-table” type book.
Fine. Grace brought Him here to be ‘God with us’.